76% of employees within the UK report moderate-to-high or high levels of stress - if you're one of them, it's important to know how you can reduce your stress levels, prevent burnout, and ultimately, lead a happier and healthier life.
We’ve all experienced periods of time that are particularly stressful in our life, and we most likely will again (I know, you don’t want to hear that!). So, it’s important that we know how to deal with stress to stop ourselves from becoming anxious bundles of stress 24/7.
If you think the only way to deal with stress is by hitting the gym or doing a guided meditation before bed, then this is for you. Of course, all of the "stress busting techniques" we all know and love are great ways to reduce stress, but the key to long-lasting stress-relief is: practising kindness towards yourself.
Why Is Stress So Detrimental For Us?
Stress increases our cortisol levels and cortisol levels not only put the mind and body on high alert and increase anxiety, but also mess with our body’s balanced system, weaken the immune system, leave us more susceptible to illnesses and infections, reduce the quality of sleep, and interfere with important hormonal functions.
Our bodies can cope with having increased cortisol levels for a short time, but if we start to experience chronic stress, real harm can be done to our physical and mental health. So, that’s exactly why we need to know how to reduce stress levels.
The Key: Be Kind To Yourself
Don’t panic, I’m not just telling you to be kind to yourself and take care of yourself without a proper explanation of what that means - let's be honest, Juno just isn't one of those platforms!
Whilst there are a myriad of ways you can reduce stress in the long run (such as doing mindful practices, exercising, eating well, and surrounding yourself with loved ones), one of the most important ways to reduce your stress in the long run is to be kind to yourself.
If you practice this, the rest will follow.
If you constantly maintain a mindset of being kind to yourself, you will fuel yourself with proper nutrition, you'll make sure you get enough sleep, you'll practice mindfulness, you'll spend time with the people that bring you joy, etc etc.
Many people find that they struggle to maintain these "stress relieving techniques" and that's because they're missing the first point: they're not kind to themselves and in turn, they don't look after themselves in a caring way.
How Can You Actually Practice Being Kind To Yourself?
It might seem simple to just become nicer to yourself, but it's actually a conscious choice that you have to constantly practice.
Here’s a few tips on how you can start:
Listen To What Your Body Wants
The best way to actually navigate stress is by tuning in and listening to what your body wants and needs. Do you need to lay down for a few hours and catch up on your favourite series without checking your work emails? Do you need to call a friend and talk it out whilst cooking dinner? Do you need to get outside and stretch?
Your body knows what it wants and what it wants is to help you through stressful times to come back to a more relaxed and balanced state. So, listen to it and don’t say ‘yes’ to anything that doesn’t align with what your body wants.
Stop Judging Yourself
The worst thing you can do when you’re stressed is judge yourself. A lot of people start to judge themself for feeling stressed and for experiencing anxiety, but this only makes it worse. It can be comforting to understand how you respond to stress - if your body is telling you to stop and have a break when you're stressed, that'll probably work for you, but if it's telling you to head to the gym and sweat it out, that might be your go-to.
Don't try to compare the way you deal with stressful times with others - we're all unique and different things work for us.
For many that find slowing down and taking some time out is the best approach to lower their stress levels, it can be hard to battle with the guilt this brings up, especially since we live in an "always on" culture.
Just remember, if you're feeling guilty and anxious about relaxing, you're not actually taking a break since your mind is on overdrive. Instead, to fully recover from stress, it's important that you treat yourself with the utmost kindness and empathy, pushing away any guilt so you can fully unwind.
It's just wishy-washy or hippy-dippy: practicing mindfulness can help relax and centre you, as well as help you find peace and tranquility when you otherwise can’t. Mindfulness can look like a wide range of practices, from yoga and meditation to journaling and just sitting quietly.
Different mindful practices work for different people, so try and find a mindfulness practice that you can incorporate into your daily life and you’ll find the stress washing off you (oh, cleansing meditative showers are a dream too - give it a go!).
Spend Time Around People That Bring You Joy
Spending time around people that we love and people that bring us joy can boost our serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine levels, combatting stress directly and boosting our mood. In addition, the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” really is true, so try and confide in someone about your stresses and you might not only figure out ways to solve the problems you’re facing, but you might also benefit from just talking it out and being supported by that person.
Focus On Properly Fuelling Your Mind and Body
Nutrition directly impacts our minds and bodies, and therefore if you’re not properly fuelling your body, you might find that your stress is exasperated.
So, although having a cheeky bit of chocolate to boost your mood is absolutely fine, you still need to prioritise proper nutrition, especially when you’re feeling particularly stressed. Focus on getting your greens, add fruit into your diet, and take a multivit or an adaptogen formula if you need some extra help.
Hint: adaptogenic herbs directly help the way that your body reacts to stress, so they will definitely be beneficial to you!
Don’t Overdo It With Work
If you’re working all hours, every day, you’re not only likely to be stressed by your non-existent work/life balance, but you’re also putting yourself at risk of burnout, which leads to unfathomable amounts of stress and anxiety. So, make sure you don’t overdo it.
Create a work/life balance for yourself and speak to your manager or HR team if you feel overwhelmed or need help with your workload. The key to getting out of burnout is not experiencing it in the first place. So, take measures to ensure this doesn’t happen!
The Takeaway - Treat Yourself As You Would Treat A Friend
The takeaway from this article really is that you should be treating yourself as you would a loved one. Be just as kind to yourself as you would be to someone that you care about. If you focus on being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself, and align your life with this at the centre, you’re naturally going to reduce your stress levels and deal with stress more efficiently.